Eovaldi rises to the occasion in G6 to set stage for Scherzer

Right-hander holds Astros to two runs over 6 1/3 innings to force Game 7

October 23rd, 2023

HOUSTON -- All October, the Rangers have heaped praise onto Nathan Eovaldi, complimenting the right-hander for his stuff and his poise and raving about their confidence in the 33-year-old.

And when push came to shove on Sunday night, with the Rangers’ season on the line, manager Bruce Bochy showed exactly how much Texas believes in Eovaldi -- even when he wasn’t at his best.

With a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, Bochy sent Eovaldi -- who had labored through six innings by stranding six Astros -- back out to battle Houston’s lineup the fourth time through the order. He ended up facing 28 batters, tied for the most faced by a pitcher in a playoff game since 2020.

“Once we tied it up 1-1, it was just, ‘Go out there and try to go as long as I can. Get as many outs as possible,’” Eovaldi said postgame on the FOX broadcast.

Although his seventh inning was cut short by a softly hit Jose Altuve single, Eovaldi ended with a gutsy performance to help Texas take a 9-2 win over Houston in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park.

At this point, it’s what the right-hander is known for. His team has won nine of the 10 playoff games he started. The last and only time his team lost a game he started in the postseason? The Red Sox in Game 6 against the Astros in the 2021 ALCS.

“He's done it so many times,” Bochy said. “He has the ability to rise to the occasion. He has great stuff, start with that. But the makeup of this man, it's amazing. He wants to be out there in a game like this.

“... He's the guy we needed out there tonight.”

Texas is 4-0 in Eovaldi's four postseason starts, in which he boasts a 2.42 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He used a key mechanical adjustment to dominate in the first three outings, regaining lost velocity on his four-seam fastball and relying on his wipeout splitter to accumulate a postseason high in strikeouts (nine in Game 2 vs. Houston).

The Astros didn’t bite on the splitter in Game 6. But Eovaldi adjusted accordingly after struggling in the first frame, limiting hard contact and holding Houston to 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position despite five hits (all singles) and three walks.

The veteran right-hander returned the praise from his clubhouse and credited catcher Jonah Heim for helping him find a groove. Eovaldi, ever the gracious teammate, similarly expressed his trust in Game 7 starter Max Scherzer.

“He's been in the situation before,” Eovaldi said. “He knows how to go out there and compete and pitch. I think he's definitely going to be a lot better than his last outing. … I know that last start didn't sit so well, and the competitor that he is, he is going to go out and do a great job tomorrow.”

Scherzer took the loss in Game 3 on Thursday in his first start in over a month after a Sept. 12 right teres major strain. But his experience in big games and postseason resume give Eovaldi confidence that he can bounce back in another must-win ALCS game.

Eovaldi certainly showed it with his own postseason experience.

“I’ve kind of run out of words at this point,” Heim said. “I don't know. When he’s got that kind of resume, you think things have to turn around at some point, but I don't think it is. That's the kind of guy he is. He’s a guy who is gonna give you everything he’s got. He’s gonna come and compete, and he’s gonna give you the chance to win every time.”